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Types of APIs: Choose the right API for your project

Posted by Ivan Serrano on February 1, 2019 at 9:39 AM

In 2014, there were 5.4 billion Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices worldwide. By 2020, IoT connected devices are expected to increase to 30 billion. As new technologies and innovations emerge, internet connect devices need to continuously evolve to keep up. From thousands of mobiles apps to the multitude of internet connected devices, the ability to transfer data securely and seamlessly is in high demand.  


Through APIs (application programming interface), developers can use a set of programming protocols, descriptions, and operations to achieve secure digital communication between programs easily. This software intermediary will allow for automated processes, efficient applications, and the window to software program interaction.


Choosing the right API for your project is key. To determine which type of API is best, you need to learn the different types of APIs out there. There are many types of APIs, but Web service APIs (used for web applications or online communication) are one of the most popular types. In this blog, we will explore some of the most popular sub-types of Web APIs.


REST APIs are a prominent type of APIs. Also referred to as a “RESTful web service”, REST APIs are based on representational state transfer technology. They typically use HTTP methods (get, post, put, delete, patch) to map CRUD (create, retrieve, update, delete) operations for HTTP requests. REST methods should have all information enclosed in JSON format in the message body. A set of architectural constraints, REST is for designing distributed systems and are designed to use existing protocols. This means that using a REST API can be done over most existing protocols and additional software or libraries do not need to be downloaded to use them. APIs that follow REST principles generally use appropriate HTTP methods when conducting actions.


SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) is a protocol that allows disparate operating system programs to communicate with other programs using an XML payload to deliver the messages. The payload is generally negotiated and transmitted over HTTP or SMTP, or via other preferred protocols. SOAP’s architecture consists of application layer protocols and messaging frameworks for web communication. Since web protocols run on all operating systems, SOAP allows web services to receive responses independent of language and platforms.


An XML-RPC (Remote Procedure Calls) API is a protocol and set of implementations that allow procedure calls over the internet for software running on disparate operating systems. RPC utilizes XML to encode calls and HTTP to transport the calls between the programs. As the basis for SOAP, RPC is faster and easier to implement when wanting to make simple and generic calls over HTTP. Essentially, XML-RPC is the generic use of XML for remote procedure calls, independent of specific protocols.

JSON-RPC defines only a few commands and data structures for quick deserialization. JSON-RPC

The JSON-RPC (JavaScript Object Notation) is a stateless remote procedure call similar to the XML-RPC protocol, except encoded in JSON. Designed to be simple, JSON-RPC defines only a few commands and data structures for quick deserialization. Representing only four primitive types (Strings, Booleans, Numbers, and Null) and two structured types (Objects and Arrays), both JSON and JSON-RPC uses the same type system. Transport agnostic, JSON-RPC can be used in various message transport environments (sockets, HTTP, etc.) for client-to-browser communication.


Before implementing any Web APIs into your project, make sure you choose the right one for the job. There are many APIs out there, not just for web applications, with a wide range of functions and features. Determine your project goals and then choose the API that best suits those needs.


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